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Born in Romania in 1907, Mircea Eliade became one of the twentieth century’s preeminent scholars of religion, writing some 1,300 publications, including dozens of books, during his 60-year career. In 1928, after completing a master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Bucharest, he went to India for three years. There, while studying Sanskrit and Indian philosophy with Surendranath Dasgupta at the University of Calcutta, he also encountered Mahatma Gandhi as well as Rabindranath Tagore, and lived six months at Rishikesh ashram of Swami Sivananda. Returning to Romania, he wrote a dissertation, Yoga: Essay on the Origins of Indian Mysticism, which earned him a 1933 doctorate and a professorship at Bucharest, where he spent the rest of the 1930s. He also began writing fiction in which ordinary people come to terms with the sacred. During World War II he worked in several diplomatic posts
in England and Portugal. After the war, he fled the Communist regime in Romania, lived in Paris 10 years, then accepted a position with the University of Chicago, where he taught from 1956 until his death in 1986. He helped launch the field “history of religion” and authored such major works as Yoga: Immortality and Freedom (Princeton, 1970), The Sacred and the Profane (Harvest, 1968), and the fascinating multivolume Autobiography and Journals.